As of this writing 1951's The Browning Version is our final Anthony Asquith film in the Criterion Collection, and while it is also an adaptation of a play it is a very different film to the others we've watched over the years. The Browning Version is certainly bleaker than Pygmalion and The Importance of Being Earnest, but also perhaps more inspiring, in that it actually hopes to be inspiring.
This week Pat kicks things off with a diatribe against the mood whiplash that we experience going through the Criterion Collection in spine order, which also gives away that we recorded last week’s episode out of sequence since Pat says that Hearts and Minds was our last episode and...it wasn’t.
We’re talking Anthony “Puffin” Asquith’s incredibly faithful 1952 adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, and while often a too-faithful adaptation can be grating, this is Oscar Wilde. Probably helps that it’s a short 3-scene stage play. Still, Puffin’s is definitive. Productions are still aping his style decades later, not that that keeps modern productions from doing interesting things.
Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard direct a film adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's play about elocution and overcoming class barriers: Pygmalion (1938). Pat and I conflate Shaw and main character Henry Higgins, probably unfairly, to complain about ideas that still plague society: "we can all be equal, as long as you act like me." (Shaw, as a socialist, was certainly a supporter of the plight of the working class, but as a believer in eugenics he probably still deserves some criticism of his views of equality of all.) Higgins is, of course, meant to be unlikeable, but that never stopped anyone from liking him (see the popularity of My Fair Lady, which turns the whole thing into a love story between Higgins and pupil Eliza Doolittle) so yeah. What's up with that, dumb people?
Anyway! Since Pat and I are both students of language this episode is mostly complaining about people who think there's even a such thing as some sort of unchanging "proper English". Enjoy?